15 Highest Paid Footballers: Messi beats Ronaldo

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Football is not only the most popular sport but also one of the richest sports in the world. The volume of money involved in the FIFA World Cup and popular football leagues like English Premier League will dwarf most other sports events.

Lionel Messi tops the highest paid football players in the world list with estimated earnings of $111 million. Messi’s arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo is at the second position with $108 million and Brazilian player Neymar completes the top 3 with $90 million in earnings.

We used data from Forbes to compile this 15 highest paid footballers list. Keep on reading to learn more.

1.Lionel Messi

Earnings – $111 million (€98.22 million)
Salary & Bonus – $84 million (€74.33 million)
Endorsements – $27 million (€23.89 million)
Club – Barcelona

At the top of the highest paid football players list is Argentinian star, Lionel Messi. Messi is considered one of the greatest players of all time. He is a forward player who also captains the Spanish club Barcelona and the Argentina national team.

Lionel Messi has been playing for Barcelona his entire professional career. Moving to his records, Messi’s achievements and awards are numerous. He has won a record-tying Ballon d’Or award five times and has scored over 670 career goals for the club and the country.

At the end of the 2002-03 full season, Messi was offered an opportunity to join Arsenal but he chose to continue with Barcelona. Having started his career with Barcelona, his gradual progress could be seen in his first professional contract, signed in 2004, which lasted until 2012 and contained a contract of €30 million ($33.9 million). The very next month in March, he made his debut for Barcelona B in the Segunda División B, and his payment incremented to €80 million ($90.4 million).

Sooner in 2005, Messi signed his first contract as a senior team player. The contract was until 2010, two years less than his previous contract, but his wages increased to €150 million ($169.55 million). Later during the same year, his contract was extended until 2014. In 2007, another contract was signed by Messi with Barcelona which increased his wages. Messi became the highest-paid player of the team in 2008 with an annual salary of €7.8 million ($8.8 million).

Barcelona scored its first treble in the history of Spanish football which resulted in a new contract of €250 million ($282.6 million) that went until 2016 proportionally increasing his salary to €12 million ($13.6 million). During his ninth senior season, Messi signed a new contract that went until 2018 for an increased wage of €13 million ($14.7 million). Messi with his exceptional play got a new contract signed in 2014 with his wages increased to €20 million ($22.6 million), or €36 million ($30.7 million) before taxes which was the highest wage ever in the sport during that period.

According to the new Barcelona contract signed by Messi in 2017, his weekly wages were $667,000. He also earned $59.6 million as the bonus. On sponsorship basis, the initial career sponsors of Messi were sports-oriented companies Adidas, Pepsi, and Konami.

Since 2010, with the gradual increase in the achievements as a player, his marketing call widened, which lead to a long-term endorsement deal with esteemed brands Dolce & Gabbana and Audemars Piguet. As of 5 March 2019, Messi earns $111 million with a salary of $84 million which puts him ahead of his arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

2.Cristiano Ronaldo

Earnings – $108 million (€95.54 million)
Salary & Bonus – $61 million (€53.96 million)
Endorsements – $47 million (€41.58 million)
Club – Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo is known as the best player in the world, who plays forward for the Italian club Juventus and captains the Portugal national team. Ronaldo has won 27 trophies so far in his professional career with a record-tying five Ballon d’Or award. His senior career goals for the club and the country has reached over 690.

In 2015, Ronaldo was crowned as the best Portuguese footballer of all time by the Portuguese Football Federation. Initial days of Ronaldo started with Nacional for two years and he went on to a three-day trial match with Sporting CP for a fee of £1,500. Being impressed by his playing style, Alex Ferguson agreed to pay Sporting £12.24 million.

Ronaldo played with the England Manchester United for 7 years from 2003 to 2009. With his exceptional play in 2007, Ronaldo won all the four main FWA and PFA awards which concurrently upgraded his wages to £120,000 a week (£31 million total) as part of a five-year contract extension with the Man United.

After the 2009-10 season, Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for a world record transfer fee at that time of £80 million (€94 million). This record-breaker transfer went until 2015, which was worth €11 million per year. After the commencement of the 2013–14 season, Ronaldo signed a new contract with Real Madrid that extended his stay by three years until 2018 with a salary of €17 million net.

This made him the highest-paid player in football. According to the Forbes in 2016 and 2017, Ronaldo was crowned as the highest-paid athlete. In 2018, Ronaldo made a new contract with Juventus for which the club paid €100 million, which is considered the highest ever paid transfer fee by an Italian club. At present Ronaldo earns $108 million.

3.Neymar

Earnings – $90 million (€89.61 million)
Salary & Bonus – $73 million (€64.59 million)
Endorsements – $17 million (€15.04 million)
Club – Paris Saint-Germain

The Brazilian footballer Neymar, who plays forward for the French club Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team is considered one of the best footballers in the world. His achievements and awards are massive having helped the Santos win two successive Campeonato Paulista championships (Copa do Brasil, and the 2011 Copa Libertadores).

The UK-based media company that focuses on global sports SportsPro crowned Neymar as the most marketable athlete in the world in 2012 and 2013. Youth career of Neymar was spent in Portuguesa Santista and Santos until 2009. The initial senior career of Neymar started with Santos in 2009.

The very next year 2010, Neymar was offered to join the English Premier League team West Ham United for a transfer fee of £12 million and later another offer came in from another English club, Chelsea, which is reported to be in the region of £20 million. Neymar denied both the offers and said that he wanted to focus on Santos.

During the 2013-14 season, Neymar received an offer from two clubs and he chose to play with Barcelona on a five-year deal. Initially, the transfer fee remained confidential which was later revealed by the club’s vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu. He got transferred for €57.1 million and his release clause was set at €190 million. Neymar works with global sponsors including Nike, Red Bull, and McDonald’s.

On 3 August 2017, the most expensive transfer ever was made by Paris Saint-Germain as Neymar got transferred from Barcelona to PSG on payment of €222 million ($251 million) to the club. Neymar still plays for the PSG and is the third highest paid footballer in the world. Neymar is earning $90 million these days.

4.Gareth Bale

Earnings – $34.6 million (€30.62 million)
Salary & Bonus – $28.6 million (€25.31 million)
Endorsements – $6 million (€5.30 million)
Club – Real Madrid

At number 4 is the Welsh footballer Gareth Bale who plays for the Spanish club Real Madrid and Welsh national team as a winger. Gareth is the Welsh’s highest goal scorer of all time with 31 international goals scored so far. He has been named as the Welsh Footballer of the Year for a record of six times.

The senior career of Gareth started with the Southampton from 2006 to 2007. In 2007, Bale signed a new 4-year deal with Tottenham Hotspur with an initial payment of £5 million. The wages gradually increased to £10 million based on his performances and achievements. He made another 4-year deal with the Spurs in 2008. Gareth has an endorsement deal with Adidas through 2020.

Again in 2010, Bale signed a new 4-year contract with the Spurs. At the end of 2010, Bale was offered to join several other clubs, but he insisted to play with the Spurs and extended his stay with the club until 2015. In 2012, Gareth signed another 4-year deal with the Spurs until 2016.

Gareth Bale was offered to join the Spanish club Real Madrid on 1 September 2013 to which he agreed, signing a six-year deal in a then world record deal. According to the Spanish press, it was reported that Bale had cost £77 million ($119.30 million), whereas the British press stated that a world record transfer fee of £85.3 million ($131 million) was made. In that case, it would be above Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer record fee of $117 million (contract value is converted using the exchange rate on the date of announcement).

However, in January 2016, the transfer fee was known through the Football Leaks which confirmed a world record transfer fee of €100.8 million (£85.1 million). This record was surpassed by Paul Pogba’s in August 2016 with a record fee of €105 million (£89.2 million). The current wage of Gareth Bale is $34.6 million.

5.Paul Pogba

Earnings – $29.5 million (€26.10 million)
Salary & Bonus – $25 million (€22.12 million)
Endorsements – $4.5 million (€3.98 million)
Club – Manchester United

The French footballer Paul Pogba plays as the central midfielder for the Premier League club Manchester United. At times he plays as the defensive midfielder, attacking midfielder and deep-lying playmaker. He began his senior career with Manchester United for 1 year between 2011 and 2012.

Pogba established his name in Italy with this exceptional play and was awarded the Golden Boy award in 2013 followed by Bravo award in 2014. In 2012, Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United announced that Pogba will not be a part of the team anymore as he had signed with the Italian club Juventus long before.

He signed a 4-year contract with Juventus and played with the team until 2016. He renewed his contract with Juventus in 2016, tying him to the club until 2019. On 8 August 2016, a 5-year contract was signed by Pogba in order to return to his former club, Manchester United. Pogba has a 10-year deal signed with Adidas.

The transfer was a then-record for the highest football transfer fee at €105 million (£89.3 million). Apart from the transfer fee, bonuses of €5 million were offered exceeding the former record holder Gareth Bale. Pogba is now earning $29.5 million.

6.Oscar

Earnings – $27.4 million (€24.24 million)
Salary & Bonus – $25.9 million (€22.92 million)
Endorsements – $1.5 million (€1.33 million)
Club – Shanghai SIPG

Oscar is a Brazilian footballer who began his senior career in 2008 with the Sao Paulo for two years. He plays as an attacking midfielder for the Brazil national team and the Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG. His transfer details have been shared below:

SeasonDateLeftJoined
2016-17Jan 1, 2017ChelseaSIPG
2012-13Jul 25, 2012InternacionalChelsea
2009-10Jun 17, 2010Sao PauloInternacional
2008-09Aug 1, 2008Sao Paulo U17Sao Paulo

After going through a series of controversies, Oscar transferred to Internacional, where he spent the next three years of his career. After 3 complete years, he signed for Chelsea for a fee of $61.575 million. After 4 and a half year with Chelsea, Oscar signed for Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG for an Asian transfer record of £60 million in January 2017.

7.Wayne Rooney

Earnings – $27 million (€23.90 million)
Salary & Bonus – $22 million (€19.46 million)
Endorsements – $5 million (€4.42million)
Club – D.C. United

The most popular English footballer Wayne Rooney is at number 7 in highest paid football players list. Rooney tops England’s all-time goal scorer list and also the man to receive the most red-cards for England. Rooney was on high demand during his senior career as he has played various midfield roles. Currently, Rooney plays as a forward for the Major League Soccer team D.C. United.

His contract deals with the clubs have been shared below:

SeasonDateLeftJoined
2018-19Jul 10, 2018EvertonD.C. United
2017-18Jul 9, 2017Man UnitedEverton
2004-05Aug 31, 2004EvertonMan United
2002-03Jul 1, 2002Everton U18Everton
2001-02Jul 1, 2001Everton YouthEverton U18

The initial senior career of Rooney began with the Everton when he signed his first professional contract making him one of the world football’s highest-paid teenagers. This contract in 2003 changed Rooney’s weekly income from £90-a-week to around £14,000-a-week.

Though the Everton offered a new contract of £50,000 per week, Rooney opted to get transferred to another club in 2004. He was offered to join Newcastle for £20 million but he denied the offer. Eventually, Rooney signed for Manchester United, which was considered the highest fee ever paid for a player under 20 years old at the end of the month at £25.6 million deal.

During the 2006-07 season, he extended his stay with the United by signing a two-year contract extension until 2012. He signed another 5-year contract with the United until 2015. In 2014, he made a new deal that tied him to the United until 2019.

Later in 2017, it was confirmed that Rooney would return to his earlier Everton on a 2-year contract. It was a free transfer and the United drafted in another professional footballer Romelu Lukaku from Everton for an initial £75 million.

In 2018, a new opportunity came in for Rooney as he signed a three-and-a-half-year deal with American D.C. United. Apart from the transfer deals, Rooney’s endorsement deals are with Nike, Coca-Cola, Asda, Ford, and Nokia.

8.Luis Suarez

Earnings – $26.9 million (€23.80 million)
Salary & Bonus – $19.9 million (€17.61 million)
Endorsements – $7 million (€6.19 million)
Club – Barcelona

Another player from Barca, which is one of the richest sports teams in the world, is at number 8. The Uruguayan footballer Luis Suarez also plays as a striker for the Uruguayan national team. So far, Luis has won 17 trophies in his career and has scored over 400 goals league and international games.

SeasonDateLeftJoined
2014-15Jul 11, 2014LiverpoolBarcelona
2010-11Jan 31, 2011AjaxLiverpool
2007-08Aug 9, 2007GroningenAjax
2006-07Jul 1, 2006NacionalGroningen
2004-05Jan 1, 2005Nacional U19Nacional

Till date, Luis has played for more than 5 football teams. His initial career began with the Nacional for 1 year and later he moved to Groningen and played for the team another 1 year until 2007. Later in 2007, Suarez was offered €3.5 million to join Ajax but was rejected by the Groningen. After several controversies, Suarez accepted on a transfer fee of €7.5 million.

Suarez signed a five-year contract with the  Ajax and played with the team until 2011. In January 2011, Ajax initiated the transfer of Suarez to the Premier League club, Liverpool, as they accepted the offer €26.5 million. Suarez signed the contract for five and a half year until 2016. Again in 2012, Suarez signed a long-term deal with Liverpool.

Barcelona in 2014 made one of the most expensive transfer deals by drafting in Luis Suarez from Liverpool for a fee of €82.3 million. This made Luis one of the classiest players in the world. The current earnings of Suarez are $26.9 million.

9.Sergio Aguero

Earnings – $23.5 million (€20.78 million)
Salary & Bonus – $17 million (€15.03 million)
Endorsements – $6.5 million (€5.75 million)
Club – Manchester City

The Man City’s striker Sergio Aguero is an Argentine footballer who is considered the City’s all-time highest goal-scorer. He also plays for the Argentine national team and was the youngest player to play in the Argentine Primera División on his debut at 15 years in 2003.

Aguero’s senior career began with the Independiente from 2003-06. Later in 2006, Aguero was drafted in to play for Atletico Madrid in the European League La Liga for a transfer fee of €23 million. He established himself as a professional footballer, drawing attention from Europe’s top clubs by scoring 101 goals in 234 appearances.

In January 2011, Agüero made a new contract with the club to stay until 2014. But Aguero got transferred to English Premier League club Manchester City in July 2011 for an undisclosed fee. It was a five-year contract, thought to be in the region of £35 million. Again in 2013, Aguero extended his stay with the City for a year until 2017.

He was so committed to Manchester City that he signed a new five-year contract in 2014 to stay until 2019. In September 2018, Aguero signed a new contract to play with the City until 2021. Aguero is at present the 9th highest paid footballer in the world with an earnings of $23.5 million.

10.Angel Di Maria

Earnings – $22.6 million (€19.99 million)
Salary & Bonus – $20.6 million (€18.22 million)
Endorsements – $2 million (€1.77 million)
Club – Paris Saint-Germain

Angel Di Maria plays as a winger or as an attacking midfielder for the Paris Saint-Germain and the Argentine national team. In 2008, Angel Di Maria scored the goal that helped the country win the 2008 Olympics and since 2008 has won over 90 caps for his country. He has been transferred to many clubs since his senior career. The transfer history is shared below:

SeasonDateLeftJoined
2015-16Aug 6, 2015Manchester UnitedParis SG
2014-15Aug 26, 2014Real MadridManchester United
2010-11Jul 1, 2010BenficaReal Madrid
2007-08Jul 27, 2007CA RosarioBenfica
2005-06Jul 1, 2005CA Rosario U19CA Rosario

Having started the senior career with CA Rosario, Di María was transferred to Europe in 2007 to play for Benfica. In 2009, he signed a new deal to play with Benfica until 2015. But in 2010, Real Madrid offered Di Maria to join the club for €25 million with an additional €11 million as incentives.

Angel Di Maria agreed and signed a five-year contract. Again in 2012, he made a new deal to stay in the team until 2018. Having seen his exceptional play, on 26 August 2014, the Manchester United drafted in Di María on a five-year deal for a transfer fee of £59.7 million.

In 2015, Di Maria joined the French champions Paris Saint-Germain for an undisclosed transfer fee, which was said to be around £44 million. He made a four-year contract with the team and at present gets a salary of $20.6 million which includes the bonus also.

11.Kylian Mbappe

Earnings – $22.5 million (€19.90 million)
Salary & Bonus – $20 million (€17.68 million)
Endorsements – $1.5 million (€1.33 million)
Club – Paris Saint-Germain

Kylian Mbappe is a forward footballer who plays for the Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain and the Argentine national team. The Centre of the International Sports Studies (CIES) ranked him as the world’s most expensive player based on the transfer value.

The senior career of Mbappe began with the Monaco B. The 2016 season saw Mbappe’s first professional three-year contract to stay with Monaco until 2019. He played with the team from 2015 to 2018. In 2017, Paris Saint-Germain signed Mbappe on loan from Monaco at the region of €145 million plus €35 million in add-ons. This was the most expensive transfer within the domestic league.

Since 2018, Mbappe is free of the loan and is continuing his journey as a footballer with the Paris Saint-Germain for a salary of $20 million, which includes the bonus.

12.Thiago Silva

Earnings – $22.4 million (€19.80 million)
Salary & Bonus – $21.4 million (€18.92 million)
Endorsements – $1 million (€884,100)
Club – Paris Saint-Germain

At number 12 in the world’s highest paid footballers list is Thiago Silva. He plays as a central defender for PSG and the Brazilian national team. He established himself as a professional player by winning the 2010-11 Serie A season with the AC Milan. With this victory with Milan, Silva moved to PSG in 2012 for a transfer fee of €42 million.

This made him the then second-most expensive defender in history behind Rio Ferdinand. Find the transfer details of Thiago Silva below:

SeasonDateLeftJoined
2012-13Jul 14, 2012AC MilanParis SG
2008-09Jan 1, 2009FluminenseAC Milan
2006-07Jan 1, 2007Dinamo MoscowFluminense
2006-07Dec 31, 2006FluminenseDinamo Moscow
2005-06Jan 1, 2006Dinamo MoscowFluminense
2005-06Jul 1, 2005FC PortoDinamo Moscow
2004-05Jan 1, 2005JuventudeFC Porto
2003-04Jan 1, 2004RS FutebolJuventude

Silva’s former senior career began with the Futebol in the year 2002. He continued with the team for a year and transferred to Juventude. Porto drafted in Silva for €2.5 million in 2004 and later moved to Dinamo Moscow and played for a year. In January 2006, Fluminense announced the signing of Silva and he played with the team until 2006 December.

Silva got transferred to Dinamo again and returned back to Fluminense the same year. Silva agreed to a four-year contract offered by the AC Milan for a transfer fee of €10 million with net wages of €2.5 million. Later he signed with PSG for a transfer fee of €42 million and his current earning is $22.4 million.

13.James Rodriguez

Earnings – $22.1 million (€19.54 million)
Salary & Bonus – $16.8 million (€14.85 million)
Endorsements – $5.3 million (€4.69 million)
Club – Bayern Munich

James Rodriguez plays is an attacking midfielder or winger for the German club Bayern Munich and the Colombian national team. He started his senior career as a Colombian professional footballer based in Envigado and stayed with the team for 2 years. Later he played with Banfield for 2 years.

In 2010, Porto drafted in James on a 4-year contract for a transfer fee of €5.1 million, with 30% economic rights retained by other parties. Later in 2013, Monaco announced that James will be playing for Monaco until 2018. The transfer fee of €45 million was agreed by the Porto and James signed a five-year contract with Monaco.

During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, James stated that it was his ‘life’s dream’ to play with Real Madrid and on July 2014 it was confirmed that James had signed a six-year contract with Real Madrid at a reported transfer fee of approximately £63 million.

In 2017, James was loaned to Bayern Munich on a two-year-long deal. A reported loan fee of €13 million was paid by Bayern Munich to the Real Madrid for the two season-long loans. A payment of €42 million has to be paid at the end of the loan period if the club wishes to tie James with the Bayern Munich.

At present James is playing with the Bayern Munich with a salary of $16.8 million which includes the bonus amount also.

14.Graziano Pelle

Earnings – $22.1 million (€19.54 million)
Salary & Bonus – $21.1 million (€18.66 million)
Endorsements – $1 million (€884,100)
Club – Shandong Luneng

The Italian footballer Graziano Pelle who plays as a striker for the Italy national team and the Chinese Super League club Shandong Luneng is the fourteenth highest paid footballer in the world. He began his senior career with Lecce in 2004 and played until 2007. Graziano has played with three different ‘C’ clubs on loan – Catania, Crotone, and Cesena.

In 2007, he was drafted in by AZ and he played with the club until 2011. He scored 14 goals out of 78 appearances. He was transferred to Sampdoria, Parma, Feyenoord, and Southampton and was eventually sold to SD Luneng for an estimated fee of £12 million in 2016.

This transfer ranked him as the world’s fifth-highest paid footballer, earning £13.5 million per season around €16 million. He was transferred from Feyenoord to Southampton in 2014 on a three-year deal for £8 million. His current salary is $21.1 million including the bonus value.

SeasonDateLeftJoined
2016-17Jul 11, 2016SouthamptonSD Luneng
2014-15Jul 12, 2014FeyenoordSouthampton
2013-14Jul 1, 2013ParmaFeyenoord
2012-13Jun 30, 2013FeyenoordParma
2012-13Aug 31, 2012ParmaFeyenoord
2011-12Jun 30, 2012SampdoriaParma
2011-12Jan 1, 2012ParmaSampdoria
2011-12Jul 1, 2011AZ AlkmaarParma
2007-08Jul 1, 2007LecceAZ Alkmaar
2006-07Jun 30, 2007CesenaLecce
2006-07Jul 1, 2006LecceCesena
2005-06Jun 30, 2006CrotoneLecce
2005-06Jan 1, 2006LecceCrotone
2004-05Jun 30, 2005CataniaLecce
2004-05Jan 1, 2005LecceCatania
2003-04Jul 1, 2003Lecce U19Lecce

15.Hulk

Earnings – $22 million (€19.46 million)
Salary & Bonus – $21 million (€18.57 million)
Endorsements – $1 million (€884,100)
Club – Shanghai SIPG

Another Chinese Super League player Hulk completes the top 15 highest paid players list with earnings of $22 million. Hulk plays as a forward and also as a winger for the Chinese club Shanghai SIPG.

Hulk started his senior career with Vitoria in 2004. He has played with several clubs drafted in on loan and went on to play with the Porto in 2008. In 2009 he extended his contract along with his buy-out clause increased to €100 million.

In 2012, Hulk was transferred to Russian Premier League club FC Zenit Saint Petersburg for €60 million, with Porto receiving €40 million. In June 2016, Hulk was offered to join Chinese club Shanghai SIPG from Zenit for a reported £45 million which was an Asian football record.

Hulk would earn £320,000 per week, accumulating to £16.6 million per year. At present, his salary is $21 million which includes the bonus. The transfer history of Hulk has been shared below:

SeasonDateLeftJoined
2016-17Jul 1, 2016ZenitSIPG
2012-13Sep 3, 2012PortoZenit
2008-09Jul 25, 2008TokyoPorto
2007-08Apr 1, 2008Kawasaki FrontaleTokyo
2007-08Dec 31, 2007TokyoKawasaki Frontale
2006-07Jan 1, 2007Kawasaki FrontaleTokyo
2006-07Dec 31, 2006Consadole SapporoKawasaki Frontale
2005-06Jan 1, 2006Kawasaki FrontaleConsadole Sapporo
2005-06Jul 1, 2005VitoriaKawasaki Frontale
2004-05Jan 1, 2005Vitoria U19Vitoria
2002-03Jan 1, 2003Sao Paulo U17Vitoria U19

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